The medical license of a Danville psychiatrist has been suspended following an investigation that alleges he overprescribed Xanax and other controlled substances and that at least 12 of his patients have died of drug overdoses in the past year.
The state Board of Medical Licensure on Tuesday issued an emergency order of suspension for Dr. Melborne Williams which prohibits him from “performing any act which constitutes the practice of medicine.”
Williams is also the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation in Clay County, where several of his patients have died of drug overdoses in the past year, said Clay Sheriff Kevin Johnson. Clay County Coroner Danny Finley said this morning a cocktail of drugs prescribed by Williams is listed as contributing factors in 12 deaths there.
Williams, who was on staff in the behavioral health unit at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center for 13 years, could not be reached for comment this morning. No one answered the phone at his office on Martin Luther King Drive, one of several locations around Danville where Williams had practiced over the years.
According to the suspension order, the medical board’s investigation of Williams began in October, after a state investigator reported Williams was identified as a reliable source of Xanax among several informants used to make drug cases. The board subpoenaed the medical records of 20 of Williams’ patients to analyze his prescribing patterns.
The medical board’s investigator then interviewed Dr. Stuart Larson and Dr. Bryan Wood at the CentEx Clinic in Danville, where Williams briefly practiced. Larson told the investigator he grew concerned after seeing the parking lot filled with cars from various counties around the state and other patients began complaining about “junkies hanging around the practice,” the suspension order states.
Wood, one of the owners of CentEx, said Williams was fired from the practice because about 97 percent of Williams’ patients were being prescribed high doses of Xanax and a cocktail of other drugs including Seroquel, Klonopin and Trazadone, according to the order.
A review of the clinic’s records showed Williams saw an average of 41 patients a day at CentEx, more that twice as many Wood and Larson. The average visit lasted five to seven minutes, the order states. After leaving CentEx, Williams’ patient load increased to 42 a day, more than twice the number “the average psychiatrist would see in a typical day,” the order said.
According to the suspension order, the medical board’s investigation found Williams prescribed 1,352,745 Xanax tablets on 12,622 separate prescriptions between April 2011 and March 2012, making him the leading prescriber of the anti-anxiety medication in Kentucky.
In December, a nurse at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Clay County made an anonymous call to the medical board to report she was seeing a trend with Xanax overdoses among Williams’ patients. In January, the sheriff and coroner also called the board to report similar findings.
Johnson, the sheriff, said his office has been investigating “the direct link” between Williams and the overdose deaths for about a year. He declined to speculate on what criminal charges might come out of his investigation, and when, and even if, Williams could be charged.
“It’s a complicated situation,” Johnson said. “He’s a doctor, and he can say, ‘Well, in the name of medicine, these people needed these drugs.’”